Holy scramboli, it's dinnertime

Parenting experts universally praise the traditional "family dinner" -- everyone gathered around the table to share the evening meal and news of the day.

Such dinners help families stay close despite their busy lives, the experts say, and help parents keep tabs on their children's day-to-day travails without the direct intervention of the authorities.

Unlike much parenting advice, which at our house is met with hooting derision and thoughts of "they've never met our kids," we've always embraced the family dinner concept.

Throughout our two sons' lives, one thing they could count on was that at dinnertime, the whole family would gather around the table to share food and fellowship.

It was at the family dinner that the boys learned some semblance of table manners. Dinner was where they told us of the Shakespearean conspiring and backbiting of the playground. It was where they saw that adults could gossip and carp, too. It was at dinner where plans were made and plots were hatched and the beans were spilled.

We kept up the family dinner tradition against great odds. Work schedules sometimes threatened to tear it apart. When ours sons were very small, they tended to throw and spill so much food, we parents wanted to be nowhere nearby. (We eventually had to get a dog to do clean-up duty.) Even dining styles conspired against us: one son eats so fast, he's done before the rest of us are finished passing the salt; the other ate so slowly that we all ended up drumming our fingers and forcing smiles while he finished. Still, we stuck with it because we recognized the value of that time with our kids.

Those days, I'm sad to say, are over. Our sons are teen-agers now, and they're constantly on the go. Now, we're lucky to dine together a couple of times a week.

The main culprit is something all modern families can understand -- the microwave oven. Why wait around for the whole family to share the traditional meat-and-potatoes meal when a pizza can be had in mere minutes? Why make something fresh when you can reheat leftovers? Surely, warmed-up Chinese food will taste better than whatever Dad has planned.

Now, at our house, most dinners are a sort of kitchen dance, with each of us taking our turn at the zapper, hovering and crinkling and beeping, then wolfing our food and hurrying away to our respective destinations.

We've even coined a name for such haphazard evening meals. We call it "scramboli," as in, "Are we all sitting down to the dinner tonight, or is it scramboli?"

"Scramboli" means "eat whatever you can scavenge." One person will reheat leftover spaghetti, another will nuke a pot pie, and yet another (usually Dad) will settle for a hot sandwich with melted cheese.

We parents rationalize that "scramboli" will, in the long run, be as beneficial as the family dinner. We're teaching the boys to fend for themselves. We're teaching them how to heat and eat. When they go off on their own, the one thing that won't worry us is whether they're starving.

As long as they have microwaves.

No comments: